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Politics

Candidates for Allegheny County executive line up

| Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011

Allegheny County Controller Mark Patrick Flaherty, a Democrat, announced his candidacy for county executive Wednesday, and a Tea Party organizer said she might soon enter the Republican race.

Both Flaherty and Patricia Weaver, who founded the Pittsburgh Tea Party, said county government is entering a more austere age, when service cuts and privatizing county functions would replace publicly financed projects such as Pittsburgh International Airport.

"We can no longer look to Harrisburg and Washington (lawmakers) with our hands out," Flaherty said. "The money is just not there anymore."

Weaver, 54, of Fox Chapel said she's "strongly considering running." Allegheny once had the fifth-most corporate headquarters of any U.S. county, she said. "It no longer has that position. ... Our population is shrinking. It really needs to be turned around."

Weaver, who graduated from Harvard University with a master's degree in business administration in 1985, helped run her husband's dermatology practice. In 1999, she worked with then-Mayor Tom Murphy, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and then-state Sen. Melissa Hart to pass a law allowing mothers to leave unwanted infants at hospitals without being prosecuted. The law is intended to reduce abandonment.

When Hart won a congressional seat in 2000, she and Weaver wrote the Safe Havens Support Act, a national version of the law, said Weaver, a Certified Public Accountant.

Flaherty became controller in 2004 and has criticized incumbent Executive Dan Onorato's decision to fight a court-ordered countywide property reassessment.

He said he would support a statewide moratorium on reassessments, but since that's unlikely, the county should focus on getting assessments right.

The son of former Commonwealth Court senior judge and county commissioner Jim Flaherty, and nephew of former Pittsburgh Mayor Pete Flaherty, he said tax increases should not be an option to balance the county budget.

Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 2 to 1 in the county, but Republican Gov. Tom Corbett won the county over Onorato by about 400 votes in the gubernatorial race last year.

County Council President Rich Fitzgerald and city Controller Michael Lamb are considering running, as is Republican County Councilman Matt Drozd. They said they would announce their decisions within a week.

Flaherty said his position as controller, the county's auditor, gives him "a unique understanding" of county government's budget and inner workings.

Weaver said she would draw on her business background.

"I certainly know how to work on a very limited budget," Weaver said.

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